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Curr Opin Drug Discov Devel. 2002 Mar;5(2):251-60.

The cyclotides: novel macrocyclic peptides as scaffolds in drug design.

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  • 1Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Australian Research Council Special Research Center for Functional and Applied Genomics, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.


Cyclotides are a novel class of circular, disulfide-rich peptides (approximately 30 amino acids) that display a broad range of bioactivities and have exceptionally high stability. Their physical properties, which include resistance to thermal and enzymatic degradation, can be attributed to their unique cyclic backbone and knotted arrangement of disulfide bonds. The applicability of linear peptides as drugs is potentially limited by their susceptibility to proteolytic cleavage and poor bioavailability. Such limitations may be overcome by using the cyclotide framework as a scaffold onto which new activities may be engineered. The potential use of cyclotides for drug design is evaluated here, with reference to rapidly increasing knowledge of natural cyclotides and the emergence of new techniques in peptide engineering.

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